Clean Slate is the exercise in a Temenos lab that focuses on the present. You use it to gain clarity about a specific system you are a part of: your Self, your team, your marriage… It helps you discover what you want.
You introspect and reflect on how that system fits you, and how you fit that system. You ask yourself two questions:
- How am I not authentic in that system?
- How does that system make me not be authentic?
Different ways to phrase something resonate well with different people. Hence some alternative pairs of questions:
- How do I fail the system?
- How does the system fail me?
- How do I disappoint the system?
- How does the system disappoint me?
Similarly, the word system may not resonate with you. Alternatives:
- Space or room I share with me or others (visualising this in your mind works best)
- Temenos, which happens to be ancient Greek for sacred or safe space.
Pick a Temenos which is important to you, and where you think it might be valuable to improve your behaviour or strategy.
Intent and Outcome
Clean Slate gives you clarity about what is, about your individual perception of the current reality of the Temenos.
It highlights and connects your pain points in that Temenos and gives you the option to see them, gain understanding, and let them be. It may offer you choices.
- Pick a Temenos. Let your decision be guided by your gut feeling of what’s relevant for you, right here, right now.
- Introspect. Meditate if you want. Visusalise the Temenos if you want, see what’s there: colours, shapes, light, shadow. Movements. Sounds. Smells. Make it rich.
To find an inspiration for the visualisation of an actual place: where would you ideally want those people to be? Imagine it, then move it into the present and make it “real”.
- Visualise. Draw. As soon as you fill the canvas more details may come to your mind. Writing is ok, drawing is more powerful. A white paper can tell an awesome story. You can’t do this wrong.
- Articulate. Tell your story. To yourself or someone you trust. Share with the group. Ask your audience to compassionately listen.
Using Clean Slate for the first time, pick a Temenos where you have not been deeply hurt. Have a person who loves you nearby, someone whom you trust to help you.
If you intend to share with someone, focus while drawing on what you would like to tell that person.
Safety in Groups
If you do this exercise with a group, be careful and know your own limits. Do a Clean Slate a few times with others until you’ve internalised how it works. Clean Slate is deep, and safe as long as you are safe and help the group feel safe.
- You need to be able to deal with your participants feeling and expressing pain. You open a safe space for them to be vulnerable, it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t get hurt. Don’t do this unless you can responsibly say that you can not possibly do any harm with this.
- To establish a space of trust, use Influence Maps. Influence Maps have built in safety valves, and while participants may feel embarrassed or ashamed, leaving their comfort zone, it can’t do harm. A group of people who’ve shared their influence maps will have the level of trust needed to do clean slate (as they will have learned how to shape their stories in a way that’s safe for them and the others).
- Use compassionate listening.
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.” Thich Nhat Hanh.